My Birth Story: The Gladiator

They're Only Little OnceEditor’s Note: We are starting to include the birth stories of bloggers here as a way to show a variety of birth experiences. These stories may be graphic in description.

“Hey, honey? I think this is the real thing.”

It was 4:30 in the morning. A contraction had stirred me from sleep at 1:48, and the intensity and regularity of the following contractions made it impossible to drift back to unconsciousness. I had spent a few hours bouncing on a birthing ball, watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix, noticing a bit of blood with each bathroom excursion.

“What do you need me to do?” His eyes were hardly opened, and he was snuggling our youngest in bed. The two other boys were in their room, sleeping soundly.

“Nothing. You’re fine. I don’t think we need to do anything for a few hours until someone is awake and can take the kids. I just wanted to let you know that it’s happening today.”

None of my previous three children had come on their due dates, and I smiled at the idea that my daughter was going to be as big of a stickler about punctuality as her mama. The contractions were noticeable, but not painful. My mind drifted to previous labors, with many false starts, and part of me wondered if I was overreacting, and that this was going to be one of many practice rounds.

A couple hours passed, and I was no longer alone with my thoughts. The morning routine shifted a bit, as the two older boys stirred before my husband and youngest. I fixed them breakfast and put on a movie, then showered. When I stepped out, my husband asked me how I was doing, and if I thought he should take the kids to a friend’s house.

“I don’t know. Would you check me?”

Having worked with a couple of home birthing midwives in previous pregnancies, my husband had become skilled at checking my cervix for dilation. The contractions still weren’t painful, so I was skeptical about making the thirty-minute trip to the birthing center on a Sunday if this wasn’t the real deal.

“What? What is it?” I couldn’t read my husband’s face, and assumed that I was still at fingertip dilation.

“You’re at a seven or an eight. We have got to go!”

About an hour later, we were pulling into the birthing center parking lot, and I was acutely aware that I had only had one contraction in the past half hour. We settled into the birthing room, especially quiet in the repurposed large Victorian home, as a Sunday meant only the midwife and nurse attending my birth were present. As they took some information, I sheepishly said, “My contractions have stopped. This might have been a false alarm.”

“I checked her before we left, though. I think she’s at a seven or an eight,” my husband said to the midwife, who in turn looked a little skeptical of my husband’s cervix exploration ability while she assured me that it was completely okay if today wasn’t my baby’s birthday. I accepted her invitation to check herself, and laid back on the bed.

“Oh. Oh!” The midwife had a look of surprise. “You’re at a nine.”

Until this point, I’d had a little discomfort, but no pain. And at this point, I had no contractions.

The midwife suggested relaxing in the tub, operating under the assumption that my uterus was protesting because I felt stressed. After a while of still not contracting, she invited me to walk around. Soaking wet from the tub, and completely naked with the exception of a nude-colored nursing bra, I jumped out and started running up and down the stairs. My husband turned on my Pandora station, and I started dancing in the birthing room. I did squats and lunges, and more stairs. I used the bathroom constantly, as my previous babe had been born over the toilet, hoping for some good luck, porcelain style.

This went on for 4 hours.

Fortunately, my contractions started up again just as I received my second round of antibiotics for my group-B strep. I hopped back in the tub, willing my water to break, knowing that my daughter would come soon after. Finally, a soft pop happened, and I felt the gush of water in the tub. I was in a squatting position, holding the side of the tub, and spoke to my little girl.

“Baby, it’s just you and me. This is hard. It’s really hard. We’re in it together, and the hard stuff is doable, because we’re doing it together.” I pushed. The midwife, nurse, and my husband were in the room, but it was just me in the tub. I pushed her head into my hand, and with another little pop, her head was fully out. I laughed. “I can feel her ear!”

When the midwife saw that her head was out, she urged me, “Just one more push, right now. Just one more push to get her the rest of the way.”

“Nope,” I said. “I need a minute.”

When my body was ready, I pushed, one more time, and with just me in the tub, my little girl came out, and I pulled her up against me. She and I had done it. Together.

Her name is Emery, which means “brave and powerful.” While I do wish that for her, the truth is, she is my source of bravery and power. She is my Gladiator, and her birth was my most sacred accomplishment.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

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